Founding Fathers: Gender roles, my people!

Welcome to “Founding Fathers” where each month we’ll be giving a different Richmond dad a place to reflect/opine/wax poetic about a fatherhood-related topic of his choosing. First up is Ross Catrow, co-publisher of RVANews and father to a 20-month-old little boy.

Sure, the dads occasionally contribute to Raising Richmond, but the conversation there tends to leans more towards the maternal perspective. That’s where “Founding Fathers” comes in. Each month, we’ll be giving a different Richmond dad a place to reflect/opine/wax poetic about a fatherhood-related topic of his choosing. First up is Ross Catrow, co-publisher of RVANews, co-founder of PharrOut, and father to a 20-month-old little boy.

Guys, have you ever noticed that magazines/books/weeklies/blogs of the parenting and home & garden variety assume that the INAPTLY named realm of “housewifery” is unappealing or inapplicable to men? What gives? I do declare that the gender roles for home life are all out of whack, my people!

Part of my solemn familial pact* with my wonderful wife is that I keep our family of three fed and watered. This is an agreement we’ve had since before breeding, but it has transitioned to our post-birth lives. I’m sure many dads find themselves in a similar position — especially during the first couple weeks of life (the child’s, not their own) when mother-of-child is busy recuperating. Now, if you are a TV sitcom dad from the 1950’s and 60’s you’re probably guffawing from your leather wingback chair — careful, don’t drop your pipe! But, if you are like the rest of us, your definition of the responsibilities, or, nay, the LIKES AND DISLIKES, of men and women have changed since Dick Van Dyke tripped over that ottoman.

People, it is 2010. Things have changed since the mid-20th century: the Berlin Wall has fallen! women can vote! men are allowed to be parents and cook foods!** UP IS DOWN, LEFT IS RIGHT! But if you take a gander at the media offerings for parents (or people who enjoy food — How to Be a Domestic Goddess, I’m looking at you) it’s like we’re all living in Pleasantville.

Allow me to anguish over the following example from Parenting Magazine‘s website: they have a “mom” link in their main site navigation. Where is “dad”? WHERE DID HE GO? Allow your rage to come to a half boil. Now realize that Parenting Magazine is specifically for “moms with babies and toddlers.” Proceed to full boil. This is not an isolated incident.

I pulled up the homepages of several parenting magazines and counted the number of times they mention “mom/mother” and “dad/father.” The data do not lie:

Magazine Mom/Mother Dad/Father
Parents 15 0
Parenting 14 0
Parent & Child 10 1
Family Circle 8 0
Baby Talk 8 1
American Baby 7 1
Family Fun 3 1
Kiwi 1 0
Cookie 1 0
Total: 67 5

Surprising? I figured “mom” would get more mentions, but I didn’t expect such a disparity. I’m not the only one to notice this either, as one person on Twitter said:

[You] don’t like Parenting? I feel like its made as if fathers either don’t read or don’t exist.

Some of these magazines, Parenting as I now realize, are specifically for mothers, which is totally fine. But why not call your magazine something like, oh say, “Motherhood.” What this says to me is that taking care of a family, aka parenting, is strictly a mother’s job, and fathers simply cannot or should not be bothered — or can’t read. Isn’t this the opposite of what we’re asking of fathers nowadays? I mean sure, sometimes I wish I could cast aside my parenting responsibilities like the dried husk of a cicada, but I don’t — and neither do any of the dads I know.

Most of those dads are incredibly involved in their children’s lives at a meaningful level — and the expectant fathers are incredibly excited to be. This isn’t just a weird clique of super dads I somehow wandered into. I mean heck, have you seen that guy on Bethenny Getting Married? He deserves a father/husband Oscar. But, maybe that guy is a harbinger of popularizing the nüdad, the more involved dad. I mean, even choosy moms aren’t the only ones choosing Jif these days. So, maybe there is hope!

But, probably not. Just now, while finishing up this article, I just saw a Clorox commercial where a bumbling father changed a child’s diaper on the kitchen counter. Sigh. Along with being illiterate, apparently we are morons. Fantastic.

* The other parts are much more arcane and macabre.
** Excuse my blatant abuse of historical fact, you can learn about the incredibly interesting Women’s Suffrage movement here and reacquaint yourself with that whole Wall thing here (I think Bono was involved).

(Photo courtesy of Susan Howson)

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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

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